Sunday, March 28, 2010

Agent Orange in Garden State

by Michael-Thomas Marciante

In January of 2005, the Port Authority in New York/ New Jersey wished to dredge the Newark Bay. In order to make it larger for cargo carrying boats to pass through. It seemed like a run of the mill request; bigger boats means more supplies to sell, and stimulate the American economy. However, environmental activists opposed the plan due to a very hazardous material that lay at the bottom of the Newark Bay: Agent Orange. This tragic tale is one that increases the need for environmentally friendly action to Earth, and disappoints environmentalists everywhere.

Perhaps an omen for this lost battle, the story begins in Vietnam during the American war on the Vietcong. America was losing its humanity as they desperately tried to force Communist regimes back into North Vietnam. One weapon used was the deadly chemical dubbed Agent Orange, an herbicide that was used to level forests in Vietnam, so American could see their hidden enemy. Perhaps a symbol for environmental destruction, Agent Orange not only lethally affected plant life, it was responsible for poisoning people in Vietnam, forever affecting them hereditarily. The war was lost, lives were lost, so had hope for people mutated in Vietnam. But the effects of war carried on, as the origins of Agent Orange would carry on for years, as the war with the hazardous chemical came home.

In an article written by F. Timothy Martin in a 2005 article in the Newstandard, “Activist Oppose Plan to Dredge up Agent Orange in N.J. Bay” the story of how activist fought the good fight against two of the environment’s worst enemies: Agent Orange and the Port Authority. While in Vietnam, America paid chemical companies to produce Agent Orange; one of those companies was the Diamond Alkali plant run by Occidental Chemical. The plant was located in N.J. and was one of the largest Agent Orange producing companies in the United States. Very much like other chemicals, Agent Orange has many unfriendly leftovers when being produce, a lot of which was conveniently placed in the Newark Bay. In an investigation on the marine life in the bay, mutated crabs were found; when tested, the crabs were found to be positive for Agent Orange exposure. Mutant Crabs!

When the Port Authority wanted their boats to come through the bay, activists protested. In an interview with the Hackensack river keeper Captain Bill Sheehan, who watches over the Bay, he said, “They’ve got this huge project to deepen the harbor because they insist there’s going to be 50-foot-draft boats here. The Port Authority in New York/ New Jersey wants to be the biggest, deepest ports—the top gunslinger on the East Coast. God help anything or anybody that tries to get in their bay.”

Green Faith, an independent environmental activist group put their feet in the water. Under clear violation of the Federal Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA), the Natural Resource Defense Council planned to sue the Port Authority. By proving Agent Orange was in the bottom of the bay, dredging it would bring hazardous chemicals to the surface and body of the water. This action would poison the environment even more than it already was. Victory seemed assured, as the obvious destruction to the environment would ensue.

The courts ruled in favor of t he Port Authority, deeming their need for economic expansion was more important that a hazardous chemical exposure. As of January 26, 2005, the Port Authority successfully dredged the river, making it one of the largest and deepest bays on the Eastern seaboard. The environmental took another hit, as a poison now travels through American water way. Just like Vietnam, the war was lost, the victor was not humanity.

Does Excessive Cell Phone Use Have Harmful Effects?

By Chris Brancato

Ever since cell phones first became a demanded product, health concerns came quickly into question. Do cell phones cause cancer? What makes cell phones potentially dangerous? How can we avoid such damaging possibilities? These are all questions that are asked and answered by Larry West in an article entitled “How Safe Are Cell Phones?” on

The main fright of cell phone usage is the radiation that becomes exposed via the products antenna. It’s the same kind of radiation that can be found in microwaves or from traditional AM/FM radios. While high frequency radiation that is exposed in things such as X-rays have been undoubtedly linked to causing cancer studies say, lower levels aren’t exactly certain at this point.

Since cell phones are relatively new, scientists haven’t been capable of assessing or making such bold accusations such as radiation from cell phones having a direct link to cancer. In the article, Mr. West provides a link to some studies that state if a person were to use a cell phone an hour a day, for 10 years, that he/she would increase the possibility of developing a rare brain tumor. Yet, only in such extreme cases has the possibility of developing some sort of illness or disease been found.

The way a cell phone antenna works is through signals being sent to the nearest base station every time a phone call is made. Since this is the case, scientists have “theorized health risks from cell-phone radiation would be greater for people who live and work where base stations are farther away or fewer in number,” Mr. West said.

While direct threats haven’t been factually linked to cell phone usage just yet, there are many precautions that we can take to avoid the possibility of any sort of damage. The easiest way to steer clear the increasing threat of radiation would be to use hands-free devices such as a Bluetooth. Limiting cell phone usage on a daily basis is also suggested as well, viewing it as a device that should only be used when necessary as opposed to how often people tend to use them.

By following this link, the FCC has provided the amount of radio frequency that is typically derived from your specific phone. Manufacturers are required to report the amount of radio frequency that “absorbed into a users head, which is also known as the specific absorption rate, or SAR,” Mr. West explained in the article.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Toxic Legacy: A History of Negligence

By Jon Lindenauer

The 1998 film “A Civil Action” directed by Steven Zaillian, was inspired by the true story of a water contamination lawsuit involving the chemical companies Unifirst and W.R. Grace (a subsidiary of Beatrice Foods) and families of Woburn, Massachusetts. The lawsuit was called Anderson v. Cryovac and was a landmark in legal actions taken by citizens affected by the pollution of a major corporation in their region. However, even with a vast array of evidence supporting their case against the three companies, the families and their lawyers proved unable to defeat the corporations in a legal setting, with an $8 million settlement out of court being their closest achievement to victory.

The Anderson v. Cryovac case began in February 1986, spanning 79 days and was followed by numerous appeals and associated cases against other culpable parties and gained nationwide attention. Unfortunately, in a tragic case of history mirroring more recent history, disturbingly similar events have unfolded in Ringwood, New Jersey where neglected pollutants left behind by a no-longer-present Ford Motor plant have wrought havoc on the residents for the better part of three decades. Again, despite abundant evidence to support their claims, reparations and a satisfactory clean-up effort have come slowly and with an unbelievably high degree of difficulty.

As with the lawsuit against Unifirst and W.R. Grace, monetary compensation has been awarded to many families. However, it is doubtful that families who have lost parents or spouses or children to illnesses related to the careless disposal of chemical waste will find absolution in any kind of fiscal compensation. Also adding insult to injury is the fact that decades after the issue has been forcefully pressed to the attention of the Ford Motor company, the proper measures to decontaminate the area have yet to be taken; and after so many years of the pollution settling into the soil, rock deposits and water sources it is highly implausible that any efforts could be taken to adequately clear the area of the currently harbored toxins.

These two examples are obviously not the only instances of large corporations doing unspeakable ecological and biological damage to a community. The food industry perpetrates crimes of this nature on a daily basis, so much so that the infrastructures major food conglomerates are based upon would crumble if actions were taken to PREVENT the biological and environmental damage they are allowed to get away with due to a horrifyingly relaxed monitoring system. Regrettably, powerful corporations – be they in the food or chemical industry - will do anything to blur the line between what is inside and outside their jurisdiction and what horrible afflictions caused by their productions could feasibly be caused by minute outside forces. Tragically, as a society that prides itself on the prospect of attaining a seemingly infinite accumulation of financial power, the individuals who embody the realization of that goal are able to avoid penalty for some of the most despicable acts inflicted on unsuspecting American citizens. But who will listen to the victim when everyone is – to varying degrees – invested in the victimizer?

Agent Orange & Other Deadly Deceptions

By Jon Lindenauer

Perhaps there is no blow more devastating to an individual than one caused by a seemingly helpful weapon backfiring. Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide used by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, appears to fall under this category. The crop killer was used by U.S. forces as a means of defeating the enemy by starving them out. However, the chemical had additional fatal and unforeseen consequences, producing such side effects as lung disease and leukemia in U.S. troops that were exposed to areas targeted by Agent Orange strikes. Over three decades later (over four for some), the U.S. government is still working on the reparation process, adding to an unfortunate tradition of too-little-too-late compensation measures.

The headline of a recent article in a Massachusetts publication The Milford Daily News boldly announced “Vets now qualify for Agent Orange-related illness benefits”, an article which went on to include the qualifying time-span a veteran must have served during to receive these benefits: 1962 to 1975. For veterans who began their Vietnam tenure in 1962, 48 years have gone without them obtaining the appropriate government aid. The article mentioned among the symptoms developed by veterans exposed to Agent Orange – Parkinson’s disease and leukemia; diseases from which monetary compensation would hardly offer relief. But these individuals are only part of a greater picture of men and women serving our country who have been exposed to deadly chemicals and offered little help from our government.

After the September 11th terrorist attacks, firefighters worked tirelessly around the clock to remove debris from the area. However, by doing so, the workers were exposing themselves to dangerous chemicals in the rubble on a daily basis. This forced many New York City firefighters – as well as other workers from the NYPD and other departments that assisted with the clean-up - to retire or change careers as respiratory ailments related to the debris removal. One instance that served to highlight the dangers associated with the clean-up effort was the death of NYPD member Cesar Borja, who died of pulmonary fibrosis as a direct result of inhaling deadly toxins while on duty at Ground Zero. Other deadly afflictions developed by workers at the site include malignant mesothelioma, lung disease and various forms of cancer. But the lack of compensation for individuals who complete important tasks for the masses day-in and day-out runs even deeper than this: for some individuals deadly illness comes with the job territory.

In recent years, more and more light has been shed on the unscrupulous nature of America’s food industry. Run almost entirely by a handful of business conglomerates, the nation’s food manufacturing business is increasingly becoming more like “business” and less like “food”, and nowhere is this more apparent than with the industry’s treatment of animals. Because of the economical, mechanical nature of this enterprise – which prides itself on efficiency – the animals, who reside at the lowest level of this process, live in conditions so vile and disgusting that the only the moniker of “business” could serve to illuminate some understanding of the process’s callousness. Yet, the animals themselves are not the only ones who reap the negative side effects of a food manufacturing process designed only for efficiency and putting sanitation at a distant second: the workers in the processing plants to which these animals are sent also pay the price. The filthy conditions the animals – cattle being the primary example – are subjected to breed a cesspool of dangerous diseases. These diseases include salmonella and E. coli, which workers are in danger of exposure to every day. But due to refusal of U.S. government officials to be firm with major food corporations, the food industry constantly gets away with unspeakable horrors to their animals and workers.

Obviously, the time to protect these men and women exposed to Agent Orange or deadly toxins from debris of fallen buildings or infectious diseases carried by animals living in wretched conditions has come and gone for the individuals already succumbing (or have succumbed) to the poisons their duties have brought upon them. However, it is not too late to educate the next generation of similarly positioned individuals and prevent the same deadly situations from reoccurring.

How DuPont is Cleaning up Their Mess

By Katie Lukshis

By request of the residents of Pompton Lakes, DuPont set up a information center in the downtown area earlier in March to provide more information about cleanup efforts. Pressure also came from federal, state and local officials to improve communications with residents. The information center will be staffed by a contractor that has been affiliated with the DuPont site for many years, as well once a week visits from David Kluesner, the EPA’s community liaison on the Pompton-DuPont cleanup. The EPA had stepped up its oversight of cleanup efforts along with the Department of Environmental Protection, after residents had asked for a more permanent presence in Pompton Lakes from the two agencies.

Kluesner is aware of the distrust residents have towards DuPont and expects some to be unhappy with the information center. He believes the polluter should pay for the information center and not the taxpayers, but community involvement is crucial in order to get the cleanup completed. DuPont has assured Kluesner that they will provide separate space in the center for EPA residents to meet privately with residents over their concerns.

Residents have been expressing their distrust of the company and its attempts at fixing their mistakes. One resident, Darcy Kamp, affected by groundwater contamination from the DuPont site described this as "just another ploy by DuPont, allowed by our borough officials, to pretend to care", as reported by James O’Neill and Elaine D’Aurizio from The Record. Resident and former Pompton Lakes councilwoman Lisa Riggiola has brought up a point worth mentioning: "Where has the polluter been for the last two decades?" she asked. "Where were they when I requested a public update meeting in 2007 for the residents?", as reported by James O’Neill and Elaine D’Aurizio. Many other residents share the same concerns and voice their opinions every chance they get.

After the information center had opened up, residents protested outside against the fact that DuPont set up the center and the EPA did not open it’s own neutral site. Protesters did not want to talk to EPA officials in an office created by the source of their problems, even though they would have a representative in the office one day a week. Kluesner had commented that if residents did not want to meet at the office, EPA staff would be available to meet elsewhere in the town.

Residents want DuPont to pay for all the damage they’ve done.. not just to their town but to their community of families. DuPont officials were frustrated about the protest, not understanding why the people are so against the information center and getting DuPont’s perspective in terms of cleanup. Project director for DuPont’s Pompton Lakes site David Epps has stated "We've been told to do this by local, state and federal officials, and we think it's the right thing to do,”, as reported by James O’Neill.

DuPont has already purchased a four-year lease on the information center in the downtown area, and will continue their long-term commitment to cleanup efforts and to the community.

For More Information:

Landfills: The Great Debate

By Ashleigh Schuddekopf

As we live daily lives, there is one thing we cannot deny: trash. Everything around us turns into garbage. A plastic bag from the market, a soda can, broken pen or pencil, old clothes, pizza boxes, etc. There is no getting around throwing things out! Once we discard our now useless items away, we simply forget about it and where it may end up.

A landfill is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial, which is the oldest form of waste treatment. Ideally, this works out well, however, not all items we use disintegrate into the soil and are left behind to rot forever on our Earth’s surface.

Landfills are fatal environments, they cause pollution in surrounding communities, they produce Methane gases (which is worse than carbon monoxide!), injures wildlife, and contaminate soil.

One great debate we have towards landfills is whether or not we should build more. Most landfills are not at 100% capacity and have at least another decade to work properly and maintain its trash. Those who support the building of new landfills claim sorting and recycling trash is costly, more costly than building new dumps.

There is plenty of space to build new ones, but who wants to live near a “dump yard”? Not many people. If we just allow new landfills to be built whenever one feels its necessary within the next 100 years our Earth just may be covered in trash!

Environmentalists are trying to push recycling and using “greener” methods of living so we do not have to build new landfills so quickly.

Regardless of what we decide, there will always be landfills, because there will always be trash—and until we find a way to eliminate throwing things out, then we should just continue being careful in our disposal choices.

Environmentalists Against PSE&G's New Transmission Line

by Jonathan Madden

Northern New Jersey- PSE&G recently has proposed a new Transmission Line Project traveling across northern parts of New Jersey to New York, putting many environmentalists and members of the National Parks Service on the defensive considering the project's negative ramifications for the surrounding environment.

The new transmission line project proposed by the power company, entitled the Susquehannah-Roseland Project, would travel from Pennsylvania on a 146 mile route that cuts through parts of New Jersey including Warren, Sussex, Morris, Roseland, and Essex counties. The proposed 750 million dollar power line project would consist of carrying about 500,000 volts of electricity through a string of 500 and 250 kilovolt towers stretching through New Jersey some of which are Federal Parks.

As a result of the project stretching through parts of federal parks such as the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River, and Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the project is now subject to the National Park Service's review. PSE&G including Donald McCloskey, director of environmental policy, have addressed the concern for the environment.

"We are taking concerns seriously, working with municipal officials and other leaders to construct the line in the safest, most environmentally responsible way." McCloskey said.
PSE&G has vowed to work with the National Park Service in order to ensure the project is conducted safely and responsibly while doing less than minimal harm to the surrounding environment.

Despite PSE&G claims that the project doing no harm to the environment, many environmental groups such as the Delaware Riverkeeper Network remain opposed. Many fear that PSE&G has not looked into the potential harmful impacts the power line project may have. An alert by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network claimed "The proposed power lines include towers twice as tall as the tree line. You will be able to see these eyesores from miles away on the river, on the trail, from the swimming hole, in the car, from your hotel room -- from everywhere." According to an article in the Star Ledger, other environmentalists are concerned about other potential ramifications such as scarring the environment, destroying scenic views, hurt local property values, contribute to illness, and cause considerable damage to one of the state's most natural areas.

"I'm not one to be considered an environmentalist, not in the least, but when I read about this in the paper, I became very angry and upset. One of the reasons why I chose to live here is because of the area’s beauty and surroundings. When I'm driving around town or eating cereal in my kitchen before work in the morning, the last thing I want to see is a huge power lines towering over the tree line," said Frank Carr, a lifelong resident of Warren County.
Yet the proposed issue might be out of the hands of local environmentalists and groups as the proposed project has already approved by the NJ Board of Utilities. Environmentalists and supporters who are unhappy about the project now look to the National Park Service as their last resort.

Going up against a power company juggernaut such as PSE&G is proving to be not an easy task, more so when there are large benefits to enhancing New Jersey's power grid. As environmentalists and supporters now turn to the National Park Service to put a cap or make considerable edits to the project's current plan, the project's future still remains unclear.

Global Warming: Making Trees Grow Faster

By Katie Lukshis

A study has been done on trees in eastern America leading to conclusions that forests may be growing faster now than they were over 200 years ago. Some 55 plots of mixed hardwood forests on the western end of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland have been the areas of study over a period of 22 years, and the documented growth proves they are growing faster now than at any time in the past 225 years- the age of the oldest trees in the study, conducted by scientists of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. These specific trees have been selected because they represent much of the trees found on the Eastern Seaboard.

Geoffrey Parker, a forest ecologist, has stated on the issue that “the increase in the rate of growth was unexpected and might be matched to the higher temperatures and longer growing seasons documented in the region…[or] may also be influenced by the significant increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide,”. A detailed census on the trees has been carried out on a regular basis since 1987 by Parker and his colleagues, in which trees and saplings with a diameter of more than 2 centimeters have been measured and monitored. With this information, they then calculated that the forest is producing an additional two tons of wood per acre per year, which would be the equivalent of a tree with a 2 feet diameter sprouting up in the space of a year. Included in this survey were trees at different stages of growth, all of which showed an increase in growth rates.

During this same time that the scientists were studying various forests, they also measured the concentration of carbon dioxide in the forest air and discovered it had risen by 12%. Average temperatures increased by three-tenths of a degree and the growing season had lengthened by 7.8 days. These contributing three factors have all played a role in the increase in tree growth rate , according to the study authors.

Global warming is an issue that has been an ongoing debate for quite some time now. These findings are so intriguing to scientists because trees are known to play an important role in counteracting global warming – they absorb and use carbon dioxide in their photosynthetic reactions. Parker believes that the trees showing faster growth rates are already “sopping up some of the extra carbon”.

The downside to this study is that scientists are unsure if this process could be sustained. Other factors vital to tree growth such as water availability and soil nutrients are limited, and may disappear faster if this trend keeps up.

For More Information:
Connor, Steve. "Global Warming Makes Trees Grow at Fastest Rate for 200 Years." Independent UK. Alternet, 3 Feb. 2010. Web.

Kaufman, Leslie. "Study Finds a Tree Growth Spurt." The New York Times. 1 Feb. 2010. Web.

NYC Waste Plant at Capacity

By Jonathan Madden

A recent conversation with my grandparents brought to my attention a potentially serious problem. My grandparents both live in Brooklyn N.Y., where a recent problem has become of environmental concern. Over capacity sewage treatment plants.

What does this mean? Across the boroughs of New York City, there exists 14 water treatment plants handling the waste and sewage from the city's occupants. However, due to rapid city expansion and growth since the plants creation, as a result of the Clean Water Act of 1972, many are experiencing trouble handling the waste load.

The problem reared it's ugly face to occupants of New York City when a heavy rain caused the sewage system to hit overload at the NYC Owl's Head Plant. Alarms blared as workers were forced to shut down the intake gates. Sewers filling up rapidly caused industrial and human waste from the sewers, both partially treated and untreated, to spill into the New York Bay. During the 1970s Congress distributed 60 billion dollars to cities to expand sewage treatment so this wouldn't happen.

This environmental problem is not uncommon to other cities outside New York. According to a study done by the New York Times, more than 9,400 of the Nation's 25,000 sewage systems have reported violating the law by dumping into rivers and lakes.

Whether one lives in proximity to New York City or not, this issue must be addressed, as the heath dangers of sewage run off is great. I feel that the city and possibly the federal government should look into this issue immediately before the rains of spring come. Perhaps it's time for the creation of another sewage plant to back up New York's currently working ones. According to, more than one third of U.S. waste systems are working at overcapacty and dumping waste into rivers. If this is so, it's difficult to beleive that the government is looking into any infractions by sewage plants against the US Clean Water Act. Perhaps its time for the Legislation to look at the issue and update the Clean Water Act, and hlep prevent this issue from further happening. Further information can be found at and water/wwsystem-plants.shtml for information on how you can contribute to New York's Waste System

Dredging of the Delaware River

by Jonathan Madden

In the news recently a hot topic of interest centers on the Delaware River and the surrounding states the river travels through. Many officials are pushing for a dredging project to deepen the shipping lanes for boat traffic.

Many feel that this dredging project is absolutely needed, especially because of how it effects ports on the Delaware River to Philadelphia. The channel right now is 40 feet deep yet needs to be made deeper to support today's bigger oceanic cargo ships. Without the channel being deepened to support larger cargo ships, ports on the Delaware River would be the only remaining ports that couldn't support the larger ships, which many fear could divert business to other reports.

Yet this push is sending many peoples including environmentalists and scientists into a tizzy. Many fear the environmental ramifications the underwater digging may have on the river ecosystem. The mud extracted from the bottom of the river would unleash many toxins deposited there form years upon years of boat traffic through the river.

Officials who are pushing for the dredging project claim to have access to safe places in which the dug up toxic mud can be stored. According to an article in the Star Ledger, "Delaware River dredging causes environmental, economic worries", Governor Jon Corzine and the Pennsylvania government secured a deal in 2007 to store the toxic mud in abandoned PA coal mines in a project costing 379 million dollars.

I feel that in these economic times, there's little else we can do but to side with the arguments made by the officials who continue to stress the importance of digging the Delaware River channel deeper. As things remain now, boats carrying lots of goods are being diverted to other ports which could yield an extremely adverse effect on the tri-state economy. But I also feel that it is as equally important to recognize the risks of undertaking such a feat, where it is even more important to make sure the toxins are responsibly taken care of in teh safest manner possible. Years of pollutants mixed into the channel floor being dug up could eb very detrimental to the surrounding ecosystem and to that of where the waste is being deposited. Before any action is taken, it is important to make sure whether or not the mines in which tghey are planning to polace the toxins wouldn't allow any waste products to infect teh existing surrounding ecosystem.

Over-Salting Roadways in New York and New Jersey

by Jonathan Madden

In a time where everyone wants to be safe wile traveling in hazardous, icy conditions, we have to be reminded about the risk to our environment by over salting our roadways.

Commonly when hazardous winter conditions come to pass, our first line of defense against slick roadways and car accidents is either salting or dropping sand on the roadways. What many don't realize is that over salting the roadways can affect our water supply and any vegetation that is near by to roads, in some cases within a distance of 200 meters. In some cases salt polluted soil will cause the roots of nearby vegetation to not extend as far as normally, inhibiting their chances to survive. Research has further shown that elevated sodium chloride levels can also stun the germination process.

Elevated salt levels in soil when road salt washes out of the roadways and seeps into the ground can pollute ground water as well. This is critical around places where we live in Northern New Jersey considering the fact that we are so close to the Highlands Water Shed, the place where most of our water is supplied from.

According to journal article "Environmental Impacts of Road Salt and the Alternatives in the New York City Watershed" by William Wegner and Marc Yaggi, New York has nine resevoirs and three controlled lakes providing 9 million consumers with 1.5 billion gallons of unfiltered drinking water on a day to tday basis. Contamination of water basins such as these could be disasterous to the water supply and to those who consumeit or live near the watershed.

Because of the high risks involved iwth salting roadways, I suggest we look into other defrosting options. Calcium Magnesuium Acentate or CMA is just as effective as salt at eliminating ice with the advantage of posing no risk to plant or animal life. The noly difference is this alternative method is more expensive than salt.

We defrost roads to preserve human life in hopes of eliminating automobile accidents but don't spend much time to examine the ramifications to our environment. If we are not careful while benefiting from the short term advantages by salting our roadways, we may be actually hurting our environment and our groundwater.

Thousands are Drinking Toxic Water

By Tara Lafemina

Water treatment systems have been violating the law and the nation has been paying the price, found recent studies. Within the last five years, over 20% of water treatment systems have violated the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to the New York Times.

The law was enacted to be sure residents are receiving safe drinking water. Over 49 million people in the past six years have received dangerous water.

Dangerous water typically includes arsenic and uranium. It also includes a bacterium that comes from sewerage systems.

The unsafe drinking water causes millions of illness each year. Many of the contaminates are linked to cancer that will take years to arise.

The parasites, viruses and bacteria are thought to be the cause of as many as 19 million illnesses each year, according to a New York Times analysis. The recent rise of breast and prostate cancer is also thought to have a link to the contaminated water.

Since 2005, the E.P.A has reported over three million people have been drinking contaminated water. Some places have water that have toxins 2,000% over the legal limit, says the E.P.A.

For some areas, the contamination is just a one time fluke. For many others, it has been continually happening for years. Safe water violations have been happening in every state.

Since 2004 Ramsey, N.J. has drinking water, where testing found arsenic, a carcinogen, and cleaning solvent. These chemicals have been proved to causing cancer. The Ramsey water system was never fined. According to an official, they have installed a new filtering system.

205 water systems in New York State have delivered water which contained bacteria. Out of these 205, only three were fined due to the bacteria, according to the New York Times.

In fact, less than 6% of water violations are fined. The Safe Drinking Water Act may not be a priority for at the state and federal level. Even the Environmental Protection Agency, whom oversees this law, has not been issuing fines or punishments.

Most of these violations happen in areas that are serving fewer than 20,000 people. This may be due to a less people being experts on such environmental issues.

The Senate and Public Works will converge into a committee to question the E.P.A. An E.P.A. official will answer question about their enforcement on the Safe Drinking Water Act. The E.P.A. will release a new policy about how they will enforce water safety at the almost 55,000 water systems in the U.S.

The E.P.A will talk about the danger they are putting the public in. Researchers say a water system could put their community in a 1-in-600 chance of developing cancer. Even with that ratio, they are still following the law.

Many people are grim about the future of potential reforms on the water issues.

“The same people who told us to ignore Safe Drinking Water Act violations are still running the divisions,” said one mid-level E.P.A. official. “There’s no accountability, and so nothing’s going to change.”

More information can be found at:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Goodfellas Gone Toxic

By Michael-Thomas Marciante

While reading Toxic Legacy, a special report on the Ford Motor Company’s ruthless pollution of lead paint and toxic chemicals into the Ramapo Mountain community, I found that the involvement of the criminal element was incredibly grotesque. The trucks would pour into the area, one by one, each carrying gallons of poison. In the distance, from the mist of the northern Jersey Mountains, the trucks would return empty, the poison had gone, but not for a small population Ramapo residents. The people of the Ramapo Mountain town were left to deal with this environmental destruction, poisoned land, and a pile of medical faults and bills.

First off, the environmental damage done the environment due to the dumping of toxic material into the Ramapo Mountain area was so vast and diverse that it is almost irrevocable. It takes a lot of materials to make a car: heated steel, chemical equipment used to make the frame, poisons poured on the car to protect it; all of these have afterbirths. These hazardous remains are put into steel drums and into trucks, where these damaging excretions kill all its way. Not just plant or animal life, but causing disastrous health risks for human life. Extending just beyond the border of New York, families live much shorter and sadder due to this event. This terrible event would cause one to bear in mind: who would do something so cruel?

The Ford Motor Company, responsible for making thousands of cars, in Mahwah, New Jersey. They spent an overwhelming amount of money to dispose of this illegal waste and payment of this illegal tax was significantly more expensive that of a blue collar crimes. During the 1970’s, the U.S. government put up laws preventing major corporations from dumping their waste into estranged areas in the United States. The Ford Company complied with these laws, in that they themselves did not dump the toxic waste into the Ramapo Mountains, but they enlisted the help of criminal sources to do their dirty work for them. The Italian mafia became the number one distributer of toxic waste for Ford. It’s hard to imagine that other criminal outlaws would also help dispose of major hazardous chemicals for major corporations other than the Ford Car Company. On a Federal Bureau of Investigation wire tap of the Italian mob, one member was quoted specifically on the money received, “We’re making more money on toxic waste than we’re making on heroin.”

The article also goes into great description of the fear of the mafia that was inflicted upon town’s people. It begins with a humanitarian story of Robert Constant, a long time resident of the Ramapo area, complained many times about what was being done, was advised to be silent about it. The Italian-American mafia has always been portrayed as a violent, family oriented and close minded group of greedy individuals. These images are usually media tainted stereotypes of actual people, however their lies truth in many understandings of this criminal underworld. Terrorism, racketeering, and murder are just a few weapons used to control any and all means of legal and illegal income. One reported incident of a Ringwood resident who found their car sabotaged after they openly voiced indifference to what was being dumped into their homes.

The results of the illegal dumping of toxic material have not only involved very ethical issues, but sociological ones as well. Outside of the gated communities, the dwindling Old Italian neighborhoods, and somewhere just north of the liberal school known as Ramapo College, there is a community of people with Native American heritage. The Van Dunk family, who has heard the trucks rumbling in the distance, knowing poisonous danger was approaching just outside the distance, has mixed heritage. It seems that the location was picked due the race of these people who live in the Ramapo area. Would it be a stretch to assume this act was racially motivated?

The future suffers for the ignorance of the past.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Painting the World Orange

By Jennifer De Shields

Veterans' organizations are threatening to sue the Department of Veteran Affairs if they fail to acknowledge certain diseases that could be tied to Agent Orange exposure. The veterans are upset because the VA didn't meet a legal deadline for adding three more diseases to a list of illnesses it provides compensation or medical treatment for.

According to The Air Force Times: “In its latest review, IoM [Institute of Medicine] found that ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and B-cell leukemias all could be linked to Agent Orange exposure. VA is required by the Agent Orange Act of 1991 to publish a regulation, making veterans eligible for benefits, within 210 days of such findings. In this case, that would have been Feb. 19. VA doesn’t have to pay out benefits until after the regulation is actually published.”

Vietnam is the nasty inkblot on America’s lengthy but mostly clean military record. To some it’s seen as the first war the country lost; to many others the war is seen as shameful war fought for the wrong reasons. The vile things we’ve done in other wars don’t compare to the entire Vietnam conflict. We were ruthless in our tactics, but perhaps the worst was our use of the defoliant Agent Orange. Agent Orange is part of the family of “rainbow herbicides” used by the United States military during the Vietnam conflict. Although many other herbicides were used, Agent Orange is easily the most famous. At the time we thought we were just compromising the Vietnamese food supply and making the jungles easier to navigate, but it’s turned out to be much more than that. We’ve not only contaminated land in Vietnam, we’ve contaminated our land as well and ruined thousands, if not millions, of lives.

Agent Orange can cause a myriad of health problems, from birth defects to disabilities to cancer. To this day there are children being born in Vietnam with problems attributed to Agent Orange exposure. The environmental effects are equally devastating; it poisons whatever land it touches. So many innocent people have had their lives affected by Agent Orange and the numbers will only continue to grow. I’m not sure what’s sadder: that people will be affected by this for generations to come or that the government is trying its best to hide how deadly it is and its refusal to help all veterans who have been exposed to it.

The government treatment of Vietnam veterans is despicable, they are refusing to help soldiers who fought for their country and were only poisoned and shunned in return. I don’t understand why its taken the government so long to give benefits to solders who have been hurt by Agent Orange. The number of soldiers affected is well into the thousands; perhaps the government simply doesn’t want to have to pay for that many people. It could also be that like the rest of the country, the government just wants to forget about the war and the pain and suffering they’ve caused because of that one colorful chemical compound. If that is the case, it’s become very obvious that Agent Orange will not be ignored. Almost half a century later it’s making itself known, whether it’s from aged veterans demanding health benefits or washing up on the banks in Newark. It’s time to stop looking the other way and start working to rid the world of one of our country’s many “toxic legacies.” Whether we like it or not Agent Orange will never disappear, and if we don’t do something now many people’s lives will be tarnished with the dingy orange herbicide.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

News Update: DuPont and Pompton Lakes

By Tara Lafemina

The people of Pompton Lakes have been struggling for years with the mess DuPont left behind. The town has decided to come together to fight the injustice they are up against.

DuPont has been trying to convince the local people that they are doing their job. In a local newspaper, DuPont has an entire page ad dedicated to praising the cleanup stating they have been cleaning up for the past 20 years. The ad says that the company has removed over 20,000 tons of contaminated soil.

For the people of Pompton Lakes, a full page ad is not enough.

There is evidence that at least 450 homes are still in danger. These houses are at risk of being exposed to mercury, lead, contaminated water and soil and a plume of toxic vapor. Other citizens of Pompton Lakes may see the dangers in Acid Brook, that runs near the DuPont site. The name Acid Brook comes from the multiple color variation of the water, depending upon what chemical is in it.

Some people of the town are loyal to the corporation that gave them a career; others are just annoyed with the pollution that was a result of the DuPont plant. No matter which side a resident finds themselves supporting, they all can agree that the environmental issues are worth worrying about.

The recent spike of resident activity against DuPont started two years ago. Lisa Riggiola and Regina Sisco formed Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes. The discovery of the dangerous plume was enough to push these two friends over the edge. They knew they had to act fast if they wanted anything to change.

Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes caught the attention of the politically powerful Representative William J Pascrell Jr, who wrote to the E.P.A in late 2009. He called to their attention, “the serious public health concern that needs immediate attention.”

In January 2010, another letter was written by Rep. Pascrell. It stated a demand that the E.P.A. use federal resources available to Pompton Lakes. Residents want an environmental team in the town five days a week that will monitor the chemicals and air quality.

Environmental officers answered that residents can have an independent vapor mitigation contractor. The installed devices will prevent dangerous gasses of the toxic plume from entering houses. Out of the 450 at-risk homes, DuPont has only installed 170 of them with a vapor mitigation contractor.

Bob Nelson, spokesman for DuPont, thinks that the long-term problems will not be easy to fix. The pollution will take years to clean up. “Our intention is to do right by the people of the town, and DuPont is not going anywhere until the contamination is remediated,” he said.

For now, Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes still have to fight for federal assistance and to get DuPont to fully clean up the mess.

For further information:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Environmental Health and Cancer

By Jennifer De Shields

It’s sad how many lives may be affected by poor environmental regulation. I feel that in the upcoming years we’re going to see more and more people diagnosed with cancer, neurological disorders, endocrine disruption, and other diseases and disorders associated with the environment. Environmental health is an issue I never thought about until now, even though I think it’s been a presence in my life for a long time. I didn’t think about it in depth until I started to suspect that our poor environment has affected my mother.

I went home a weekend or so ago for an internship interview and to see my family. I got good news; I found out that the Courier Post wants me to intern for them in the summer. Then I got some devastating news; my mother has breast cancer. Trust me, medical problems aren’t new to my mother. She’s had a myriad of problems over the years, but up until recently she’s never had cancer. In fact, nobody on my mother or father’s side has had cancer before either. She has a very positive attitude about the situation; she’s sure that whatever doctors she has will treat her very well and that she’ll be okay in the end. Others have been supportive also, telling me how great cancer treatment has gotten and how it’s good that she doesn’t have a more serious form of cancer. The whole situation got me thinking about cancer in general; it seems so common today. My mother certainly isn’t the first person I know with cancer, and when I thought more about it I realized that I know a lot of people with cancer.

My best friend’s mother died from leukemia when we were in 7th grade. That was the first time I had ever known somebody with cancer, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. In 8th grade my friend Jessica was also diagnosed with leukemia, but luckily she was able to beat it. The majority of the den mothers from my Girl Scout troop have died of cancer or some other disease. In 10th grade I started to receive treatments for hematological problems at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia at their Voorhees campus. Since the hematology and oncology department were together, I met a lot of children with cancer. These parents were mystified as to how their children got such serious forms of cancer. All of the stories seemed to blend together; it was always the first time someone in their family had cancer.

Although the mortality rate for cancer has fallen, the number of cancer diagnoses has gone up in the past few decades, according to the National Cancer Institute. Some people argue that we’ve been detecting more cases because our technology has gotten considerably better. Although I’m sure a part of that is true, I feel that the cases have gone up because of our poor environmental situation. I don’t think that it’s a mere coincidence that I know a lot of cancer patients who live in a state nicknamed “cancer alley” by environmental personnel.

Saving a Swamp: Inspiration From the Grassroots

By Jennifer De Shields

Reading the chapter on environmental campaigns in A Citizen's Guide to Grassroots Campaigns was very informative. I don’t hear much about grassroots campaigning, and normally when I hear anything about it it’s normally negative. Not negative in the sense that people think it’s a bad idea, but negative because people don’t really think that it can work. In our media and entertainment we always hear about stories of the underdog taking on their opponents and winning, despite the impossible odds. We’ll watch movies about the renegade cop taking justice into his own hands or the woman taking on the male oppression in a sexist world, or we’ll turn on the news and see a town rallying behind a good cause. In the real world, activism is much different. When you start to try to rally people, sometimes you’ll get inspired people who want to help but most of the time you’ll get jaded people who don’t want to get involved. You’ll hear every excuse from “I just don’t feel that strongly about the subject” or “It’s not really that big of a deal”, “It’s just the way things are, there’s no point in trying to change things.”

I feel like that last response is the comment I get the most. People are very aware of the way the country works: we have the government running things along with corporations. To some people it’s almost too overwhelming; they feel that there’s no way you can fight the government or big business and win. In some respects this is true; it is certainly not easy to take on anyone or anything with a lot of power. In other ways, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The people in the government are there because we voted them in. These big business are so big because we buy their products. They may have the power, but we were the ones who gave it to them and we certainly can take it back.

Reading these stories of successful grassroots campaigns lifted my spirits. It was very refreshing to hear these instances of people organizing and getting important things done. Reading about the Sterling Forest Campaign was fascinating because I heard a lot about it from my former environmental history professor Howard Horowitz. He and other professors at Ramapo College fought very hard for Sterling Forest to be saved from development. I’ve seen the Highlands forest during various drives along Rt. 287, and it amazes me that people actually wanted to turn it into office space and more suburban housing. It’s such a peaceful, beautiful forest with an abundance of wildlife; why would anybody want to turn that into something we don’t really need? I’m glad that somebody was fighting to preserve the little green space we have left in this state, especially in the Highlands. I don’t live around here, I’m actually from South Jersey, very close to Philadelphia, so I don’t get to see mountains. The mountainous areas up here are so beautiful; we should be doing whatever we can to save them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

DuPont: Still Responsible for Cleaning Up

By Sharon Meyer

The DuPont factory in Pompton Lakes has been manufacturing explosives there since the 19th century, according to Pompton Lakes History website. At that site, making gunpowder left numerous toxins that eventually leaked into the water and soil of the surrounding area.

Now the residents of Pompton Lakes are suffering from the aftermath of what DuPont has left behind; cleanup or no clean up, residents over the years have become ill at an alarming rate. Many of the illnesses have been related to cancer and two types of specific cancers in Pompton Lakes remain prominent. DuPont has taken action to clean up its mess, but not enough to calm angry residents. "In 1993, about 400 people filed suit against the company, claiming illness, fear of developing cancer and lower property values because of pollution. In 1997, without admitting liability, DuPont settled out of court for $38.5 million,” wrote Brian Murray in the Star Ledger.

Over the years consistent work has been done by the residents of the town, the EPA, and other environmental organizations to make sure that the area of pollution is being cleaned up for the future safety and health of the people who reside there, but not everyone feels as if it is safe enough. As reported in December, 2009, "I can’t say I’m very thrilled about living here. We’re right in the bullseye," said Jim Curran, who lives on Schuyler Place with his wife and three children. "I love the town. We both grew up here, but I would not have bought this house if I knew then what I know now," he told Brian Murray from the Star Ledger.

In more recent articles this past Monday, DuPont took action by opening an information center in downtown Pompton Lakes. Its purpose is to keep residents better informed about efforts to clean up contamination at its old munitions facility and in an adjacent neighborhood, as reported by James O’Neill and and Elaine D’Aurizio, writers from the Record.

The center is proposed to be open daily and staffed by a man who has been affiliated with the DuPont site for several years, said DuPont spokesman Bob Nelson. This establishment has been decided on after DuPont had heard the voices and concerns residents who wished that the lines of communication between the company and the residents become more clear. The EPA has also become involved by having the center occupied by David Kluesner, who is the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s community liaison on the Pompton-DuPont cleanup.

The Record reports that the EPA and the State Department of Environmental Protection have been working together to increase efforts of its oversight of the necessary cleanup. The ironic part of this recent article is that DuPont who has created this information center is going to be the company who oversees it. The residents are not happy with this because of the years of distrust with DuPont. Who can blame them? After years of contaminating people’s living areas where their children play, and the same company will be running the center for clean up information. How will these people know if they are telling the truth. Only time will tell.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Destructive Earthquake in Chile Brings Fear of Tsunami

By Chris Brancato

When considering recent environmental issues that have proven to be detrimental, it’d be hard to ignore the tsunami set off by the frequent catastrophic earthquakes that have been occurring throughout the world. Most recently, Chile underwent an earthquake that reached the magnitude last weekend, leaving 700+ counting dead.

An article by Alexei Barrionuevo and Liz Robbins in the New York Times summarized what occurred and discussed the relation of the tsunamis to the intense earthquakes, explaining why the after affects of a tsunami actually prove to be even more threatening than the initial strikes – similar to what occurred in Haiti.

The earthquake that struck Chile Saturday morning may have hit 70 miles northeast of the city of Concepcion and ended up releasing as much energy as 15.8 gigatons of TNT. It still caused a large amount of damage throughout the city, leaving cars “mangled and upbend on streets littered with telephone wires and power cables,” the Times reported.

Waves from the tsunami reached nearly 6 feet in height, leaving many individuals to fend for their lives. The main concern of a tsunami attack isn’t necessarily the height of the wave, but the all around width. That’s what typically ends up proving to be the main threat to individuals with property nearby.

Throughout the entire day, the New York Times ran updates on their website from citizen contributors of Chile, implementing a “crowdsource” approach to journalism, which proved to be pretty effective in the end. On 7:00 P.M. that Saturday night, the Pacific Tsunami Warning center posted a bulletin that read



By the time the tsunami struck later that night, it reached a 700-kilometer (435-mile) distance along the Pacific coast in Chile. The tsunami threat spanned as far as Australia, but fortunately didn’t reach beyond Chile’s coast. The strength of the earthquake that hit Chile was 1.8x stronger than the one that hit Haiti earlier this year. Even the tsunami spanned a much greater length in kilometers. The main difference between the impact that both countries underwent was the location of the attack. If the earthquake that struck in Chile had been more central, than the aftermath would have undoubtedly been one of the worst attacks that any country has ever faced.

Agent Orange's Effects on Vietnam

By Chris Brancato

Agent Orange, since being first exposed during the Vietnam War, has had long lasting effects that have left many feeling unexpected repercussions.

First being used as a chemical to wipe out the “enemies” crops, Agent Orange was a herbicide that contained TCDD, which proved to be extremely effective in causing damage to anything that it made contact with. The main issue that the Vietnamese people have been facing is the effects that it has had not only on the people who were first exposed to it back in the late 60’s, but to their offspring.

Five of every 100 children are born with some form of physical or mental abnormality, a fourfold increase since the start of the war, according to Vietnamese scientists, reported the Chicago Tribune in a recent investigation.

Congress allocated at least $125 million to fight HIV/Aids in Vietnam, while roughly only $46 million has been provided to help Vietnamese who lost limbs from unexploded bombs dropped by the United States. Many people question whether the U.S. should take direct responsibility to aid Agent Orange victims, since the U.S. were the initiators of this ongoing problem over 40 years ago.

A study conducted by Columbia University professor Jeanne Stellman, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature, estimated that 2.1 million to 4.8 million Vietnamese civilians were exposed to the chemicals during the war. Yet certain U.S. officials still view these accusations as forms of propaganda.
Nearly 24,000 gallons of Agent Orange and 21,000 gallons of Agent Blue – contained Arsenic – were sprayed in a small village in Vietnam called Shu’s village, according to data from spraying missions. The liquid made contact with almost all of the villagers, which has undoubtedly caused a lasting problem for any of these individuals that wish to have children.

In the same Chicago Tribune article, examples of children with visible blue veins, unhealthy, below average weight issues, even to mental retardation have been likely links to the contact made with Agent Orange through past generations.

It doesn’t seem like the state of things are really getting any better, especially considering the fact that this article was published only three months ago. Regardless of the politics that were at play during the time of war, we should aid those who are facing life-threatening health problems in direct correlations to our actions. Shrugging it off as propaganda is not only ignorant, but also complete, invalidated denial.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

News Update: DuPont/Pompton Lakes

By Amanda Valenti

Recently, residents have begun to sue over the DuPont pollution, arguing that the value of their property declined due to the immense amount of pollution.

According to, roughly 50 residents filed complaints in state Superior Court in Passaic County by Weitz and Luxenberg, the New York law firm that is representing those with complaints. A common name that showed up was Royle Systems Group, a sales and manufacturing company based in Oakland, NJ. Each case will be treated individually, so the outcomes may be different along with different settlements based on the two companies under fire. Close to 600-acres of land is considered to be contaminated and the town is working hard to clean the land at a steady pace.

According the, a protest of 12 people occurred on the exterior of DuPont’s information center. The people want more efforts and information provided about the clean up. The center has said they plan to have someone on site five days a week.

Workers for DuPont were confused as to why the protesters were outside complaining that they wanted more information. Had they went inside, there was information and fact sheets about the issue available to the public. An issue that has risen from DuPont is the vapors that are coming up from the ground and into homeowners’ basements. DuPont agreed to pay to install ventilation in the homes to get rid of the vapors; making the homes safe again.

Recently, DuPont has made a Facebook page in order to inform the public in a more readily available way. The page states, “EPA is working closely with the New Jersey DEP and other state and federal partners to ensure that contamination from the DuPont Pompton Lakes Works site is properly addressed and that people living in the community are protected, informed and involved in site cleanup decision-making."

They will also have someone manning the site in order to get the most recent information up and also control comments left by users. They state, “This group will serve as a way for EPA to share information with the public and for the public to raise and discuss issues related to the Dupont/Pompton Lakes site. EPA's community involvement coordinator, David Kluesner, will post information on this page and also serve as its moderator."

This is an up-to-date way to get information out to people who are curious and would like frequent updates. By making information available on Facebook, it will also allow people who do not know much about the issue to educate themselves and interact with others. This should work in favor of DuPont.

DuPont plans to continue the efforts put forth to clean the pollution they have caused over the years. It has been a long time in the works, with much more to be done. There are no plans on stopping until homes and lands are revitalized to health standards.

Newsletter: Agent Orange

By Amanda Valenti

Agent Orange, though an issue a long time ago, is still an issue today. People are still suffering from birth defects and many feel like some health issues could be attributed to Agent Orange. There have been complaints for new illness thought be brought on by Agent Orange.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Border Patrol plans to spray herbicides in Texas. Many people fear the consequences, as the information about the substance is not readily available.

For the veterans who have already been affected, the government feels like it has a moral obligation to care for them. According to a recent press release by the House Committee for Veteran Affairs, “ ‘we owe it to our veterans to fulfill the promises made to them as a result of their service,’ said Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA). ‘If, as a result of service, a veteran was exposed to Agent Orange and it has resulted in failing health, this country has a moral obligation to care for each veteran the way we promised we would’,” (

The fact that people may see a repeat of this frightens many. With more talk of spraying in the works, people fear for future birth defects and current medical issues. Citizens want to move forward from this disaster that occurred 40 years ago, but spraying again will only heighten the current problems.

Considering the government already has a plan in effect for those who have ailments due to Agent Orange, to even consider spraying again is counterproductive. On March 31, 2009, New America Media said, “Possibly beginning this week, the U.S. Border Patrol could commence aerial herbicide spraying along a slice of the Rio Grande between the twin cities of Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. The experimental spraying would cover an area that stretches 1.1 miles between the Laredo Railroad Bridge and Laredo Community College directly across from Mexico,” (

The U.S. does not need another occurrence of such a substance that creates such ailments. The wise decision would be find another way. More information about this substance does need to be released, as the public is unaware of what they are being exposed to. The main issue with Agent Orange was lack of knowledge. To simply repeat history makes no economical sense; not even humane sense. People need to be more informed as to what is going on and what is in the pesticides in order to protect their families, since the government may not always look out for them.

Editorial-Natural Beauty Covered in Trash

By Dave Ragazzo

Ramapo College is located in the middle of the deciduous forest, which is one of the things that makes it attractive to aspiring students. The environment on and surrounding the college is beautiful, and is home to a lot of wildlife. Because of this, many would think that the majority of the students treat this environment with respect. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

If you walk through the various parking lots on the campus, or outside of the dorm rooms, you will often see trash spread sporadically throughout the campus. It is appalling to believe that the students of this fine institution would treat their campus like this, but many of the students do not have an appreciation for the environment. It is sickening to see, but unfortunately, there is not much that the college can do to stop this pollution from occurring.

Praise must be given to the college workers as they are normally quick to clean up the mess left by the irresponsible students, which shows that they are willing to put in the effort to make Ramapo an environment friendly campus. However, the large mess is usually attended to by one or two employees, which is not enough for the normal clean up. It should not be the responsibility of the college to hire more employees to clean up a mess that is made by their students, but something must be done. Recently, they finished construction on the Sharp Sustainability Education Center. The Center’s main goal is to teach students environmental literacy, and to emphasize sustainability. This is one step that the college is taking in order to make sure that their students are environmentally aware.

Ramapo College does a lot of things to “go green.” Recently, Ramapo was involved in the signing of American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which unites many colleges and universities across the country to control the amount of global warming emissions, and make everyone aware of climate change. Ramapo is also involved with a very extensive recycling program that goes around the various campus housing units and picks up students recycling once a week. Although this program is great, there is still a great number of students at Ramapo that do not recycle, which is still part of the problem.

It is obvious that the college is making a conscious effort to become one of the most environmentally friendly colleges in the country. However, the message is not spreading to every student who lives on the campus, as every day there is large amounts of trash that can be found throughout the various parts of the college. There’s only so much that Ramapo can do as an institution, but more responsibility has to be put on the student body. If the students work together, they can make Ramapo College a much more beautiful campus than it already is, and the wildlife can get the respect that it deserves, as it is a huge part of the Ramapo campus.

Newsletter: Ramapo River’s Current State

By Amanda Valenti

Protection of the Ramapo River has been an issue for years. Finally, something is going to be done about it rather than just talk. The Ramapo River provides drinking water for over 200,000 residents. At times, the Wanaque Reservoir system also taps into the Ramapo supply.

Protection of this watershed will support cleaner water to maintain aquatic life, recreational use, public bathing, drinking water, and shell fishing. So good planning across the board is important.

The Ramapo River has been very popular with those who enjoy fly fishing. Every year around 3,000 trout are placed into the river for fisherman. Brown Trout, Brook Trout, and Rainbow Trout are the species present in the Ramapo River. People who enjoy this sport know where the deep pockets of the river are located and prefer to do their fishing there.

Another issue is the storm runoff. During large storms, the Ramapo River floods certain areas, sometimes causing severe damage. Because of this, a flood protection program has been initiated to control the river during such storms.

Because so many people depend on this water, keeping it clean is essential. Not only is it the main supply of water for many residents, it is also a backup for another area, putting many at risk should the water be contaminated. In order to achieve this goal, the surrounding vegetation areas must be looked after. The land must be healthy in order for the water to remain healthy. Over time, the uses for the land changes, so steps must be taken to provide protection through all changes that may occur. In terms of funding, the money for this operation will be supplied by the Ramapo River Intermunicipal Council and the AmeriCorps Program.

In order to obtain correct information, samples must but be taken and examined in order to properly assess the situation. By obtaining such information, the community will be able to determine the best uses of the land. Some land can be used for construction, vegetation, fishing, etc. A budget will also be figured out while determining the usage percentage of the water.

All the steps to be taken are imperative to the success of this operation. Without proper knowledge, the Ramapo River cannot be used to its full benefit and the community will be unable to take advantage of its many gifts. Though it will indisputably turn out to be a very expensive project, the outcome will be priceless for those who come in contact with the water on a regular basis.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Let's Get Started

By Demelza Davies

Not everyone needs to be in tune with what is going on environmentally. But we do need to be aware of how our actions affect the globe. People who don't care about things such as "Global Warming" are generally the ones who simply don't know that simple changes in their lifestyle can help save the environment. A lot of people feel that the environment is a scientific issue that is hard to understand. Sure, it is easy to say to some to "Google it," but not everyone is keen on the information they find on the Internet, or they simple don't have the time to look through articles and pinpoint the facts that are of interest. So let's just put it down into three words developed by environment enthusiasts to make it easier for the not-so-environmentally-sound: REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE.

There are many websites and articles that inform people how to understand the environment. There are also plenty of articles giving advice on how people can help the environment without too much effort. For example, did you know it's cheaper to use cloth napkins than paper napkins? Once used, you throw it in the washing machine along with your dirty linens and voila, a fresh serviette ready to be used again. By making this one small change, you emit less waste to the world and use less trees! Who would of guessed you can save the world and money in one swift movement, whoosh. If you are really cramped with time, try really simple things like ingesting less bottled water. People are always misinformed about bottled water; it's not necessarily better than tap water. As long as you live in an area with a well kept reservoir, you're fine. In fact, you're great because that means there are less chemicals emitted. Also, a lot of people are not aware of the extra chemicals you consume through the plastic of the bottled water; so by drinking more tap water you ingest less chemicals automatically and save the earth from the dreaded plastic waste.

Here's another way to save money and our beloved mother earth. Don't buy individual wrapped snacks. Buy them in the value bag and place portions in individual tuber ware. It's cheaper to buy the value size versus the individual wrapped kind. Indeed, you might have to spend what, five minutes organizing your cheaper snack, but think of the trees. We all basically want to avoid trash at all costs. I got these awesome tips from a credible source that has a lot of information on being environmentally aware. Visit It provides information on the many ways an everyday person can help fight pollution and global warming.

There are many ways to help the environment that only take minutes of your time and even help save you money. Get online and find out what you can learn, because everyone has different needs. The most common needs I can think of are using refillable bottles and reusable travel coffee cups. If everyone makes this slight changes to their everyday lives we would all be a little happier and a lot healthier

To learn more about ways to help the environment please visit:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Toxic Legacy: EPA's Mess-Up

By Dave Ragazzo

The newspaper series “Toxic Legacy” in the Bergen Record was a very enlightening piece about a profound environmental issue in New Jersey and New York. This series was very well written, and also discussed an important topic that many people living in the area do not know a great deal about. Being a senior at Ramapo College, and living on the campus for four years, this issue has had some impact on me. I did not know any of this before reading the newspaper articles, but now that I am aware of the situation, I would like to be more proactive about the issue. It is a little unfortunate that this was not more widely broadcasted to the Ramapo community because there are a lot of people at this school that would be happy to help the cause if they knew about it.

What I found most disturbing was the actions that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took during the years that the toxic waste was in the infected areas. Ford was wrong in polluting the environment with paint sludge and other toxic wastes, and it was the EPA’s responsibility to take care of the wastes. However, when Ford did this, they did not do the job, and almost seemed as though the EPA did not care to clean the mess that Ford had left. I thought this was totally disturbing as well as totally unprofessional on the part of the EPA. I know that no one wants to clean up someone else’s mess, especially when that mess is toxic waste, but that is part of their job descriptions. If you were working for this agency, you would have to know that doing stuff like this would be a great possibility. If you didn’t want to get into work that involved cleaning the environment, I don’t know why you would want to work for an agency whose sole responsibility is doing that. It makes absolutely no sense to me, and because of this, I think the EPA should be held more accountable than Ford.

I believe sanctions should be taken against the EPA for their actions during the cleanup of the Ford debacle in this area. By not cleaning this mess, they put many lives in danger, and affected the quality of life for the people of this area. Considering I lived on the Ramapo campus for four years, I feel disrespected by the actions taken by the EPA. I would imagine that the people who have lived in this area for many years and have sent kids through the schools here would be even more disappointed than I am, and they have every right to. Unfortunately, there are no other agencies that are going to replace the EPA, and now when other environmental issues come into play, I think we have an unreliable agency in charge of that.

The War After the War: Pompton Lakes vs. DuPont

By Jon Lindenauer

DuPont, a leading American chemical company, established itself as a gunpowder supplier and manufacturer at the turn of the 19th century. The industry rose to prominence in the early 20th century when it became a primary military supplies provider during World War I. But in a tragic circumstance, DuPont’s munitions aid in past and present American War efforts has resulted in the harm of a neighboring suburban community: in Pompton Lakes, NJ.

Although DuPont has a remarkable track record of industrial growth, its reputation has been tarnished by its unfortunate environmental track record. Credited alongside fellow environmental offender General Motors with the invention of chlorofluorocarbons (or CFCs) – a compound known for its destructive nature to the ozone – DuPont has been embroiled in a series of ecological fiascos. One notable debacle was a case in which the company was fined by the Environmental Protection Agency for polluting drinking water with perfluorooctanoic acid (sometimes referred to as C8) caused by Teflon production in a West Virginia plant. While the PFOA case raised concerns due to abnormal and possibly hazardous levels of the harmful agent in the residence of the nearby community, the results of the current situation in Pompton Lakes appear to be far more deadly.

A December 2009 article in The Record showed that the battle between DuPont and the residents of Pompton Lakes is heating up, with approximately 500 Pompton citizens in attendance for a community meeting regarding outrage over the present state of the issue. Prior to the meeting, the findings of a recent study released by the NJ Health Department showed elevated occurrences of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and kidney cancer in individuals living in the community, undoubtedly caused by pollution from the local DuPont manufacturing plant. The meeting called for federal officials to initiate a decontamination attempt of the area, which has been ravaged by toxic vapors from past DuPont chemical pollutants rising up through the ground into the homes and property of the Pompton Lakes neighborhood near DuPont’s former manufacturing site.

In a tearful plea for federal support, various member of the Pompton community spoke out about their tragic experiences at the crowded meeting. Some spoke regarding their own grave medical conditions while others spoke of family members claimed by the deadly agents that have infected their surroundings and threaten the lives of everyone in the town. In response, DuPont issued an e-mail statement conveying the company’s ongoing commitment to alleviating the contamination plaguing its adjacent community, but offering no method or plan for a complete clean-up solution.

Sadly, 2009 marked a slew of dead-end promises and investigation regarding the DuPont / Pompton issue that included Erin Brockovich and the environmental law firm Weitz & Luxemburg holding a special open meeting in March to discuss possible legal action regarding the situation. Additionally, a sprawling article series published by The Star Ledger served to shed light on the scenario but ended in March of last year offering little in the way of potential resolution, with the only hint of closure being an investigation by the state regarding the since-proven elevated cancer rates for the region. But perhaps the recent organized outrage might spark renewed interest and motivation regarding future decontamination efforts.

From the Reel to Reality: The (Impending) Ramapo River Crisis

By Jon Lindenauer

As an essential source for supplying drinking and utility based water for southern New York and northern New Jersey, the Ramapo River spans a significant region of a dual-state area with a combined population of nearly thirty million. However, due to a number of preventable human factors, the Ramapo River faces falling standards of quality and preservation from a present condition that is already alarming. After examining various statistics and figures regarding the projected outlook of the crucial water source, a horrifying image for the prospects of the river and its beneficiaries comes to life.

In recent history, many of the world’s ecological woes have been highlighted in the world of cinema. Such documentaries as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Leonardo DiCaprio’s The 11th Hour have served to illustrate the global crisis in a more straightforward format, while fictional films – such as Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow and Pixar’s Wall-E – have sought to portray future shocks with a more extraordinary and metaphoric approach. Yet, in spite of the imaginary intent of Hollywood environmental doomsday features, the reality of the situation is gradually becoming more and more aligned with fantasy depictions.

The greatest threat to the already precarious state of the Ramapo River region is the rising water levels. According to a Metropolitan East Coast infrastructure assessment (part of a national assessment spearheaded by the Subcommittee on Environmental and Natural Resources), rising water levels associated with climate change have the potential to cause catastrophic damage to an area with assets valued at approximately $1 trillion. The assessment indicates that powerful storms could cause surges up to twenty feet high, causing cataclysmic damage to a transportation system with an average variation of six to twenty feet (included with other damage predictions in the full MEC report, available for download on the Metropolitan East Coast Assessment official website).

Compounding this issue is an expected three foot rise in the overall Ramapo River water level. This three foot increase in water level not only decimates the Ramapo River region’s transportation system in a worst-case-scenario storm situation but also increases the possible frequency of such a worst-case-scenario and exponentially increases the difficulty of the subsequent revitalization efforts. Not only would this put the affected area in a state of emergency due to inability of water utility usage, it would cause potentially devastating trauma to the financial resources of the area, with an especially harsh storm season having the potential to completely cripple the Ramapo River vicinity.

Unfortunately, these projections are more of a guide to what should be expected than a warning against a bleak but avoidable circumstance. Preventing the future rise of the Ramapo River water level is no more feasible than preventing the next major storm to impact the river region. Nonetheless, there are levels of preparedness to be met than may mitigate even the most dire state of affairs resultant from an environmental disaster, which are also referred to in the infrastructure assessment; efforts which reportedly cost upward of $100 billion per decade. But these prevention and readiness measures are inescapable, the report argues considering the dreadful environmental consequences that lie ahead thanks to the lethal human impact on nature.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

VA Recognizes Agent Orange Link to More Diseases

Krysta Daniels

The article “VA Recognizes Agent Orange Link to More Diseases” clearly in publications they talks about the Veterans Affairs Departments coming to the conclusion that Agent Orange is linked to more diseases. In November 2009, an independent study by the Institute of medicine resulted in broadened health coverage by the Veterans Affairs Department who were exposed to Agent Orange. These Veterans served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975. The men in this study that serves their country in the Vietnam War might be qualified for monthly disability compensation and might not need to provide proof of their exposure.

Eric K. Shinseki said, “We must do better reviews of illnesses that may be connected to service and we will. Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence.”

According to this article that the U.S. military used the Agent Orange herbicides in the Vietnam conflict from 1961 until 1971. They used it to clear foliage that provided enemy cover. The estimated number of soldiers that served in the Vietnam War that might have been affected is 2.6 million. Many military organizations have been asking Congress to correct its policies regarding the exposure that the Agent Orange has caused. These groups include would be all the Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) and Military Organizations belonging to the National Military and Veterans Alliance (NMVA) and The Military Coalition (TMC), as well as numerous other VSOs and Military Organizations.

Something must be done to help these soldiers that are still being affected by the Agent Orange exposure. U. S. Representative Robert Filner released a statement that called for additional support for the Agent Orange Equality Act of 2009. This bill will expand the eligibility for presumptive conditions to veterans who were not directly “boots on the ground,” such as sailors and pilots. The current law in place only suggests that some places in the Vietnam were affected and only soldiers who were there for on a select amount are allowed to be compensated for their exposure.

Filner said, “Time is running out for these Vietnam Veterans. Many are dying from their Agent Orange-related diseases, uncompensated for their sacrifice. If, as a result of service, a Veteran was exposed to Agent Orange, and it has resulted in failing health, this country has a moral obligation to care for each Veteran the way we promised we would.”

Approximately 800,000 Vietnam Veterans are estimated to be alive today and luckily are eligible for treatment for Agent-Orange-related illnesses. According to, VA’s Web site, the department presumes all military members who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange. Also, some children of female Vietnam Veterans may qualify for compensation, based on birth defects associated with the chemicals. Excerpts of this article were written by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press Service.

Saving A Swamp: When Citizens Do Something Remarkable

By Tara Lafemina

I find the Great Swamp Campaign to be inspiring. For a community to come together to fight someone like the NY-NJ Port Authority, has to be a daunting task. It is amazing that this happened before the environment was even a political issue. I think that we can definitely learn from the citizens group that saved the Great Swamp.

This is a really good example of how citizens can make a difference. Why did the Port Authority think they needed another international airport within a half hour of Newark? Anyone that is coming to the tri-state area has plenty of options as to where they want their plane to land. I find it completely crazy to want to pave over all the natural areas. Greed fuels corporations but, sometimes it is best to leave things alone. People should have a say as to what they want in their neighborhoods.

The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is still a place popular with birds and bird-watchers. Since eastern North Jersey is known as an industrial area, a refuge is a must-have attraction. It gives the chance for people that live there to see animals they would not ordinarily see. It is a chance to open up an urban child’s eyes, and to see what is beyond the concrete.

I like how the citizens did not give up for the few years they had to fight the NY-NJ Port Authority. Passion is always a good thing to have and is a key ingredient in any battle you choose to fight. Bringing a display of the Great Swamp to the Short Hills Mall really brought the issue to the attention of people. It is the drive and passion that will cause grassroots campaigns to prevail.

It’s a shame we do not learn more about grassroots campaigns growing up. It is not right that in history class we are taught to question our government, yet not taught how to try to fix it. There should be more examples of these campaigns. I am sure most people can give a definition of a grassroots campaign. That is not enough. We need to know where, why, and how it happened. People need to know that they can fight an authority and still win.

New Jersey citizens are probably one of the last people to want to tackle an environmental issue. At least, this is the way others want to see us. Yes, there is that small part of the state that has a funny smell, but the rest of the state is filled with mountains, beaches, and farms. Corporations and authorities seem to think New Jersey is the place for them to dump their waste. Luckily, we are filled with people that care and have generated many grassroots campaigns to save our state.

Agent Orange: Dangers Went Unnoticed

By Tara Lafemina

“Vietnam veterans that fought between 1962 and 1975 can now apply for benefits, regardless of which diseases were diagnosed,” reports the Milford (MA) Daily News.

It is about time, veterans of Vietnam get additional medical benefits. The war started over 40 years ago; now the government decided it’s time to acknowledge the effects of Agent Orange.

For years these veterans have been suffering from serious diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and leukemia. For some, the benefits may be coming too late.

I am sure that many of these veterans and others had an idea of what was causing these sufferings. Agent Orange is an herbicide that was used to destroy the Vietnam jungle. If Agent Orange can destroy these dense jungles, chances are it could destroy a person’s health. Within the past 40 years, scientists have discovered that these herbicides are not safe for human health. Veterans should have been taken care of many years ago; at least the talk of more help should have started before 2010.

These veterans went out, risked their lives and left their families to do what their government wanted of them. After each soldier’s tour of duty, the government should have taken full care of them. It is the least the government could have done to repay the vets. Just because these people can not serve the government anymore, does not mean they should be tossed aside.

If Agent Orange makes vets eligible for benefits, their pensions and disability payments should not be decreased. It would not be surprising if the government does something like this. If they do, it would defeat the purpose of Agent Orange benefits. It would not make the vets’ lives any easier; in fact it would not do much at all to help them.

Right now we are in Iraq fighting a war. Many people believe our current war is a lost cause and wasting money, just as they believed of the Vietnam War. A concern this country should have is what is going to happen to the people fighting in Iraq. We have to know if it is going to take the government 40 years to acknowledge Iraq may be a cause of diseases to soldiers fighting now.

What we should avoid is a second generation of armed forces being treated unfairly. We should look at the effects of Agent Orange on the last wave of veterans. We have to be sure it is not a repeat experience of healthcare that is less then desirable. Yes, the difference is people today are signing up for the Army, Marines, etc. But, they are part of these services to fight for their country, not to develop a disease that will hinder them for life. I do not know if there are any chemicals in Iraq that could cause diseases; if there is, something has to be done to get rid of them. At least make sure the armed forces are getting all the benefits they deserve.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saving a Swamp: Changing the Course of a Life

By Karen Dougherty

In reading the chapter “Saving A Swamp and Landmark Campaigns” in the book, A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Campaigns by Jan Barry, I am again struck by the notion that if you find a cause that you are passionate about, you may change the course of your life.

The example of Helen Fenske and the Great Swamp campaign is a case in point. In 1960, the marshy area known as the Great Swamp was near enough to Newark Airport that developers thought it the ideal location for a new and improved airport. Area residents knew that the true value of the swamp lie in its dazzling biodiversity and unspoiled landscapes. Passionate community laypeople banded together to convince Congress to protect the wetlands as a national wilderness, thereby protecting its survival.

One of the people involved in this project was Helen Fenske. Helen was an unassuming young housewife and mother who lived adjacent to the swamp and knew that it must be preserved. When the residents formed the Great Swamp Committee she became the organization’s secretary. The group even worked out of Helen’s kitchen due to lack of funds, but this became an important impetus for their mission as the view of the swamp from her windows reminded everyone how much was at stake.

Happily, the group’s success and Helen’s passion for conservation issues led her to co-found the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF). According to their website, over the last fifty years, the NJCF has helped to protect over 120,000 acres of New Jersey land from development. Her experience caught the attention of the Ford Foundation and during her employment there she helped establish the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. In continuing her rise in the environmental arena, she was appointed as a special assistant to the newly established New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and continued to hold other positions of importance there over the years. After retiring, she continued to be involved as a trustee on the boards of several New Jersey environmental organizations.

Helen Fenske’s passion and determination is a reminder that each of us is capable of making a difference in the world. Confucius understood this 2500 years ago when he said, “Choose a job you love to do and you will never have to work a day in your life.”